Joseph Anson Gallagher, born August 4th in 1918 in upstate New York near Albany to Lieutenant Colonel Maxwell and Irene Gallagher. Joe was the youngest son of four brothers; he would lose Andrew, the "oldest before this war even got warmed up". Preston was in the Army as a infantry Captain training in Arizona for desert operations.
Joe graduated from high school in Albany the class of 1934. That summer he attended West Point Prep School located at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. In 1934 Congress revised the curriculum at West Point to be completed in three years vice four; this was obviously due to the threat of war on the horizon. Joe, like his father and oldest brother, was a graduate of West Point class of 1938, set 46th in a graduating body of 378. Four years later the Gallagher family received a noticed that Joe's younger brother Jeff was killed at Battaan.
Joe's path was set by his father, he was sent to Langley to attend flight school. Surprisingly Joe liked flying and excelled in all facets, navigation, mechanics, and bombing. After receiving his wings in 1939 and 1st Lieutenant, he volunteered for B-17 flight training and transferred to Wyoming to the 483rd Bombardment Group under Lieutenant Colonel Frank Savage. Savage transferred soon after his arrival, but that Christmas while on leave with his father in Washington D.C. he briefly met Savage again at a party being held by Senator Clayton Johnson. Joe could not help notice the beauty of the woman on Savage's arm; a Miss Arlene Johnson.
Joe returned to Wyoming that January and finished B-17 flight school, he left and proceeded to Alabama to fly, fly and fly until the B-17 was his right arm. In 1941 Joe was at home in New York for the Christmas holidays when Pearl Harbor was attacked. His Father and brother were already in England as part of the 8th Air Force staff working with the R.A.F. to understand the flight corridors to Europe. While on a R.A.F. mission Joe's brother was lost when the plane he was flying in as and observer was shot down over Belgium. His father returned home soon after this and worked with the War Plans department in Washington.
Joe spoke with his father, now a three star General, about his brother and wanted to resign his commission and go to England and fly with the R.A.F. His father talked him out of that idea. Two weeks later Joe received orders to go to England and fly B-17s. He arrived in 1942 and attended three months of indoctrination flying, navigation and bomb runs. It was November 1942 and Joe spent the holidays with his father in London. That coming February Joe would get orders to the 918th Bombardment Group at Archbury, where he would be the pilot of a B-17 with nine crewmen and the training was over from this day forward. Joe was going to war, to make his father proud and avenge his brother's deaths.
After three missions with the 918th, a rumor hit the bomb group like a bomb load from a B-17, Colonel Keith Davenport, the best officer and pilot there ever was, is being relived by General Pritchard's orders, effective that very day. The base and the flight crews were in disarray and loose talk was all over Archbury, the group was going to fold up, and the air strip was shutting down.
On the following Sunday a new commanding officer arrived at the front gate and started dropping bombs on everyone he encountered. His name was Brigadier General Frank Savage. Joe remembered him from Wyoming, and knew he was hell bent and would demand more from the 918th then Colonel Davenport ever did. When Joe returned to his quarters the other officers where filling out forms to request transfer, Joe had a better idea, there were lots of reason not to fly a mission, he began to think!